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tv   Inside Story  Al Jazeera  April 16, 2015 11:30pm-12:01am EDT

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nks for joining us. "inside story" is up next. have a good night. it's no exaggeration to say we are electricity addicts - from the alarm clock that wakes you up to the charge on your cell phone or laptop. to your fridge, home lighting and heating. we assume that when we need it it's there. in endless abundant reliable supply. concerns are growing that the vast web of infrastructure that guarantees lights come on is antiquated antiquated inefficient and vulnerable to sabotage and attack.
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and we are not doing much about it. it's "inside story". this is "inside story" on al jazeera america, i'm ray suarez. whether it's commuter rail roads and bridges, municipal water and sue in as a country -- sewerage as a country we are crossing fingers hope well built but old infrastructure holds up. a creaky part is the stricke -- electric grid. it comes to an outlet in your kitchen where without a second thought you make toast and heat
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coffee. the outage in 2003 was a reminder hour ageing equipment is natural events can plunge millions into the dark. it took days to recover. businesses closed their doors, airports stopped operating, transit and traffic systems were disabled. the white house went dark when an outage hit d c. museums closed. tourists have to be evacuated. traffic lights were out. and the subway had no juice. the state department went dark. and continued with the help of a cell phone mire. >> my colleagues indicated that they do not currently see an a nexus to terrorism or anything like that. given the location or places robbed of power, it was natural that terrorism had to be recalled out. an equipment station and fire
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caused the blackout. u.s.a. today looked into the vulieribilities of the system and weapons like cyber attacks available to people that want to make black outs happen. there's an attack one every four days. one successful penetration could plunge millions into darkness. i'm joined by the vice president for u.s. operations at the electric infrastructure security council. welcome to the programme. >> thank you for having me, i appreciate it. >> in every day's news there's another thing you should or could worry about. where does the vulnerability of electric grid rank on the things that someone sitting at home watching us talk should be worried about. >> you alluded to it. the things you should be concern beside is what you rely the most on. every power structure out there
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is built on the power grid. it requires access to electricity. everything that you depend on, whether it's taking a shower and the water pressure created through the system whether it's the cell phone that you pick up and unpluck from your charger, all depends on power. the best way to answer that question is it should be the highest of importance. everything relies on it. >> how vulnerable are we talking about. is this a stam that we are lucky hasn't had bigger cole am dis. -- alamities. >> when you look at people having responsible for maintain of course, building repairing it you look at 6200 utility companies making it a heavily fragmented system. the interdependencies are exposed. you can have a seemingly obscure
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transformer or power station in another state that has a fire that's routine, and can have a second or third-order ripele effects. it's vulnerable it is 100 years old. >> some of the fragmentation is by design. we love local control. there's utility regulation state by state, interest in certain parts of the country in changing up the fuel mix so there'll be different regulations. the way people get their trist ci is fragmented -- electricity is fragmented by its nature. could we have an intelligence overlooking the network that coordinates this incredible variety of utilities? >> that is a challenge. initially in the early stages the power grid was built in smaller sections lending well to the fragmentation.
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now it comes down to the high levels of usage and consumption that is out there, and they are at odds with the fragmentation of the system. like you mentioned, it really comes down to at the user level people think about it in terms of rates. are my lights on and bills low. the hard part is a lot of power systems are collaborating working together because they realise that the power that could be put out to consumers at the local levels is coming from five states away and they can't act in isolation, in the little cylinders or silo, they have to work together. we'll see that in the future. i hope we do. the more they cross-talk, the more resilient the system will be. >> modernization and efficiency feels like one conversation and security like another. are those things we have to worry about in tandem?
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>> absolutely. the hard part is it could be a situation where while you are trying to address a specific vulnerability you are creating another. if you look at the relay stations throughout the high voltage system there are the legacy ones. electro mechanical ones. digital ones are easier to control, but susceptible to solar weather and players or cyber security. so you are trading these off, trying to increase automation to increase efficiency and tie the fragmented systems. at the same time when you create the clusters you create vulnerabilities, it's a balance that is necessary to assist the process. >> is there a ballpark estimate on what it would cost to take the most aged and least reliable
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parts of the system off line and replace with the best we have got? >> the numbers is measured in billions if you look at the system you could make a case that the dollar figure is in the trillions. each is expensive depending on the level of hardening for all the systems, and what steps you are trying to take in order to make that happen. the cost is enormous. that's where it comes into the earlier discussion about, well these are not fully functioning private companies. they don't have total control over the fingerprints, they have profits controlled by the public utility conditions and negotiated at the federal level. if a power company noticed a vulnerability, wanted to take steps to address it in order to raise the capital. there's a rate component. even if you had the dollar figure the hard part is getting the money.
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>> is there a new generation of threat with cyber attacks, with people who are looking into ways to disrupt electric service in the developed world, for reasons that are sabotage related, politically related, that want to do us harm. >> there's no question about it. now, in the cyber era this is something that is of peak concern to the power industry. they are trying to improve and modern ice their systems, a lot has to do with the control systems that regulate how the power goes where it moves through the system how it is delivered from the generating plants to the system. in the process of doing so they are creating vulnerabilities. they are taking steps to make sure you can't hop on or walk into an internet cafe. what they saw is with the
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automation, with the networking if you have a closed network, there's ways to get in. that's where you an internal security protocols. most of the breaches happen by an employ that has access to the network, they don't realise that in some way, shape or form that their identity was compromised in some way. that's the hard part about it. you look externally and internally. >> thank you. >> thank you for having me. >> how did they get into this predicament. what will it take to get out. we become reliant on devices rechargeable batteries and automobiles. have we taken for granted that electricity is available. stay with us, it's "inside story".
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focus, fragile planet >> al jazeera america, weekday mornings. catch up on what happened overnight with a full morning brief. get a first hand look with in-depth reports and investigations. start weekday mornings with al jazeera america. open your eyes to a world in motion. welcome back to "inside story" on al jazeera america. i'm ray suarez. the ice and snow is melting somewhere in northern quebec. feeding fast-running rivers spinning turbines and sending electricity, a major export into the north american grid. flip a light switch in upstate new york and power that began with moving water in canada lights up the room. almost every minute of almost every day energy zips back and forth across north america fed into the system when supply exceeds in one place, taken out
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when a heatwave has people resetting thermostats in california colorado or carolinas. as the equipment supporting this daily miracle is not modernized starved as investment and as bad guys try to figure out how to disrupt the system, it starts to look like we are more lucky than prepared. for a look at what needs to be done and whether we can manage it, i'm joined by a former energy executive who is a member of new york affordable reliable electric reliance, and casey, senior managing director of the american society of civil engineers. welcome back to the programme. >> thank you. >> if we assume off the back that we can't afford to do everything we need to do what do you put at the top of the list as we start to chip away at the massive problem. >> it's hard to come up with a number one point on that. when you look at the energy
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grid you look at three major components. the generation grid the power plants, how we generate the power, major transmission lines, and the local distribs lines, how you -- distribution lines, how you bring into houses and businesses. we are spending about 63 billion on those three segments. when we did the economic study, the failure to act, it appears by the year 2020 we may be underinvesting in those areas by $100 billion a year. it's hard to say which is important. they are all critical. >> matthew, during all the years i discovered utility board meetings and rate deliberations and pickets outside the meetings we worried about whether we'd have enough electricity and how much it costs. have we paid enough attention to the security of the system is against terror, threats and
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sabotage? >> i think it's one element of it. that's definitely a new-type of change and threat to the system, but i still believe that the major threat to the system - your earlier guess referenced it, is an ageing infrastructure both in the transmission and the power plant side of the business much on top of that that's being exacerbated by the fact that we are prematurely retiring plants that have potential use for the future. the co-plants are retired because of environmental regulation and nuclear plants. clean nuclear energy is shut down because of economic pressures, unfair economic pressures in many cases, and politics just plain politics.
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definitely the problem is made a lot more challenging by the potential for cyber attacks, and terrorism, as well as climate change because of climate change we are seeing more - the frequency of severe weather which does damage to the power grid and causes significant outages. >> matthew, i've lived in big cities my whole life. i'm used to the idea that i see people climbing up from below ground on ladders through the side walk or through the street bed. would i be surprised if you and i went down one of those ladders and poked around down there. would we find some pretty old equipment giving us our electricity? >> yes. and i think it's not only going underground. you find it above ground and
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throughout the new york state. recently a study was done by a new york area as well as the transmission owners in new york state and they recognised a need to replace the very old infrastructure, perhaps to the tune of $25 billion to replace the transmission system that finds its way throughout new york state and transmits power from up to down state. >> big numbers are thrown around. can we amortise some of the costs. if $25 billion is a lot of money. no one will kid around. but with greater efficiency and security the ability to spread out the tax treatment of some of those expenditures are there ways to handle that. we say we can't to it? >> sure, it's doable. when we think about the economic
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study, compared to the ones we did for transportation water and ports in the united states the funding on this one, while sizeable seems manageable. we are looking at a gap by 2020 of over 100 billion. when we did the study, it was $11 billion. in a nation with a g.d.p. of 16 trillion, we should be able to move forward. people need to remember out of all the infrastructure sec stores electricity may be critical. everything we do runs off of that. at the academy, there was a report on the 20 top engineering innovations, things that - the automobile, internet, clean water, the number one thing was electricity. >> in other parts of our built
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infrastructure times we imprison today because we want to keep the things that we installed 30 years ago running. is there an aspect of that problem in electricity. i have done a lot of stories on computer systems that are not even made any more that have to be made for the purpose of keeping old systems running is there an aspect of the blockages to modernizing american electricity, where we have to keep old things running so we don't jump ahead to the newest and the best and the most advance technology. >> i don't think so. as much. we have to keep some of the old systems running to bridge the gap to when we can install a significant amount of new technology and equipment. the real problem is that we have to recognise that we have a real problem, and admit it.
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and perhaps manhattan-style project, to deal with the problem, and get the government in line with that developing programs and regulations, and centers for the utilities to build the new systems. as well as exercising leadership. i think the utility industry has to step forward and be innovative, use technology, become a little more aggressive in funding and the expansion of the infrastructure and probably more important, most important, is the need to have the public anticipate the fact that to maintain and improve the system we have today, and that ensures the health of the economy, we'll have to build new projects and put new devices in place. the status quo is not acceptable
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any more. >> if i can jump m on that. -- jump in on that. i agree with the point made. there's a duality, people expect when they flick the switch. it will be there. when you get to discussions of a powerline or a windmill farm. a position builds. over the next five years we need to build 17,000 miles of lines, and there's sitting issues and -- sitting issues and delays. >> thank you both for joining us. >> up until now we have mostly discussed the electric grid from modernization we'll be joined by the pentagon by sarah jamal's jamie mcintyre -- "al jazeera america"s jamie mcintyre.
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are the armed forces worry about attacks on the electric grid. still ahead on "inside story".
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you're watching "inside story" on al jazeera america. i'm ray suarez we have been looking at the trick grid. you heard about antick waited equipment. let's look at security threats to the grid. "al jazeera america"s jamie mcintyre joins us from the pentagon. during the cold war we were told the threat to the grid was from an atomic weapon is the thinking about the vulnerability shifted. >> it has. we here warning of an electronic pearl harbor a cyber attack that could not just affect the electrical grid but water supply and in a way the new era was ushered in by the united states
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and israel where experts agree that those two countries introduced the stuxnet virus disarming iranian centrifuges, it's where you have a cyber weapon, a line of complicated computer code that can inflict physical damage. if the u.s. and israel can do it. others can do it too so does the defense department war game around, strategise around attacks to that kind of critical infrastructure. >> yes, they do. last week the commander - the u.s. northern commander based in colorado was here talking about how concerned he is about this. his primary mission is to protect the defense department submissions and help in civil attacks as well. it's not just the pentagon it's law enforcement.
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other national security agencies that do it. there's two parts, there's the defences detecting and deterring and warding off a cyber attack and cyber offences, where they may tick pre-emptive a to thwart someone wanting to wreak havoc by shutting down the grid. >> we are so used to thinking about the defense of the united states being based here looking out at the rest of the world. power plants and transition lines are domestic infrastructure, and seems to be out of the wheel house of the armed forces of the u.s. >> part of the mission of the u.s. armed forces is to protect the homeland. that's a part of it. you know the power outage that we saw in washington shows how vulnerable the system could be it was not app act of terrorism
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but a malfunction of a piece of equipment. as it malfunctioned other systems shut down to protect tems. tems. -- themselves. it shows if you touch one part, that a very small but effective computer virus could have a big effect. imagine what it's like if you don't have the power to operate atm, and can't get gas at the gas station. it has a ripple effect. >> for all its vastness the marine le pen is a centralized place. there is after all, one gept of defense. there are famously hundreds and hundreds of independently operated and owned ute ities. how does a centralized place talk to a decentralized system
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about how to keep itself safe. >> that is something they need to do. they can't just be worried about protecting military systems. part of that is convincing private industries of steps they need to take. we saw how easily it is to do that. someone used a fishing -- phishing technique to get into the white house, so many industrial places have computer aspects to them. they have control devices that one machinery on the production floor controlled by computers. that is how the stuxnet virus worked. it got into the controllers of iranian centrifuges and caused them to spin at a rate they were damaged. >> sounds like we need a 21st
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version of war fighters and the people that can shoot straight and lift heavily thinks people that can thing well with computers. >> it's not just of the air force, it's the chair force. those behind the computer screens. at n.s.a. ford mead, you'll see people in a classified sections that look like they could be out of you know a hippy movie or somethingful long hair tattoos. they are some of the smart young minds to have the ability to really be in the cyber wars of the 21st century. >> jamie mcintyre at the pentagon thanks a lot. >> thank you for joining us for this edition of "inside story". get in touch op facebook, follow us on twitter and watch us next time. i'm ray suarez.
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call for peace - the man that may become yemen's next president appeals to the warring factions to stop fighting hello, i'm nick clark, you are watching al jazeera live from our headquarters in doha. also ahead - pictures that left u.n. officials in tears. pictures of the new chemical weapons attack in syria. back to earth with a bang